Public Relations Like Hosting a Dinner Party

I’m turning 50 this year. As part of embracing the new decade I decide last birthday that I would host 50 dinner parties this year, one for every year on the planet. That’s just about one a week. You’d think I love to cook-I don’t. But I do love entertaining, I CAN cook, and think table decorating is fun. These last 11 months really showed me how planning for dinner parties much like public relations. It required understanding the challenge, determining a message and positioning of the dinners, strategies and tactics for execution and objectives and evaluation for assessment. The budget and timeline required flexibility, but still played their role.

The first challenge is to determine who to invite. My life is blessed with dozens of friends and hundreds of acquaintances.  I needed to decide who to target–just the top 10 wasn’t enough, we’d all get bored after 3 months. I could just focus on the dozens, but what would I be missing if I didn’t get to know some acquaintances? So, much like one would in a PR strategy, I focused on attributes. I wanted to invite people I knew I liked, who could hold a conversation, be flexible in meeting different people and that I wanted to spend time with getting to know and investing my heart, and my dinners with.

The second challenge was positioning. Folks needed to know they may or may not get invited back, because I have a lot of friends. I had to convince them I can cook–few actually have seen me do that. And to assure them a good time at my house–not dining out.

Then came the strategy invite people who fit the criteria, work with the schedules available and try to pair interesting groups together.

The measurable objectives kind of easy: needed to accomplish one a week, but barring that it could two or three in a week. (I’m doing a lot of catch up this month, September wasn’t conducive to too many dinner parties). The dinner party size had to vary but could be no more than 10, because that’s all the chairs I can fit around two tables in my dining room. But a dinner party could include as few as one guest. I had to be host–sometimes I was out of town, so I picked up the tab. Sometimes it was potluck, those generally were at my house. Had to be dinner–not lunch, brunch, or breakfast.

The tactics included the invite (email only); the scheduling; the meal plan; setting tables, including decor; buying appropriate supplies; fixing the meal (or my part of the potluck or choosing the restaurant); and enjoying the dinner party.

The budget varied–mostly depended on whether I added filet Mignon or how much wine. Some meals very simple and didn’t cost much to wow the guests.

The evaluation certainly the dinner party idea a huge success. The Output has been merely counting whether I did the dinner. I chronicled them with photos, so I could keep track and see who I had invited. The outcomes turned out to be interesting–at first I only wanted to cook. But dinner out with people who heard the plan worked. An offer to do breakfast didn’t sit well–wasn’t what the intention of the dinner parties were. I have only had two meals with family and only a couple of meals with the people I feel the closest too, some not at all. I already get together with a group of women regularly, so the dinner party seemed redundant but also a logistical nightmare.  Unexpected results were improved cooking skills, an interest in recipes and trying new flavors, great new wines. The best number for guests? Six diners around a small table makes for easier food preparation, more time for the chef to be with the guests, and great conversation as a whole and in groups of 2 or 3. I have the most interesting friends; more friends than acquaintances and an ongoing passion for relationship building. Isn’t that what public relations is? It should be. Are you thinking as if you’re hosting dinner? You should be.

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